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Riddley Scott's feature film debut The Duellists follows the repeated encounters and duels of two French officers throughout the Napoleonic Wars. And while I couldn't help but see Napoleon Bonaparte himself in Feraud's stature and attire at the end of the film, I read on Wikipedia that this pose was indeed referencing a famous painting showing Napoleon in his exile. This left me wondering if the film isn't trying to make a broader statement about French history rather than just using it as a backdrop.

I know there is a historical basis for the actual characters and their duels specifically. But I'm more interested in how it relates to the broader thematic. It is clear that Feraud is a much closer follower of Napoleon than d'Hubert, who tends to go more with the flow of times. Yet Feraud is also the main aggressor and antagonist, while the protagonist d'Hubert just wants to be left alone. But if the film is trying to posit Feraud as a representation of Napoleon Bonaparte, then what is d'Hubert? He doesn't seem to be too inclined to royalism either. Would he be representing the French populace itself? Or maybe the rest of Europe? Or am I trying to read the symbolism a bit too directly?

But I also have to admit that my historical knowledge of that time period is failing me in the details to even build a theory of my own on it. So I'm asking, in which way can the film and its story be seen as drawing parallels or making a statement about its historical setting, specifically the Napoleonic Wars and their consequences? Can we take Feraud, d'Hubert and their actions as direct representatives of specific sides in the conflict or does it come down to broader thematic similarities? Basically, how does the film's historical context inform its story beyond just the setting?

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